Corporate Manslaughter two years on
It came in with a blaze of glory … prosecution of
companies and other organisations was going to a whole lot easier.
It is now approaching two years since the law of Corporate
Manslaughter was supposedly revolutionised by the introduction of
the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. So
where are we now? The reality has not quite matched the hype. There
has only been one successful prosecution and even that was tainted
by the ill health of the company's Managing Director. In any event
it was fairly easy to spot that the particular company was a
relatively easy organisation to pursue.
The Act permits prosecutions for deaths caused by a gross
breach of relevant duty of care being owed by the organisation to
the deceased person. A substantial element of that breach must be
the way in which the activities of the organisation were managed or
organised by senior management. The writer personally has been
involved in three cases which have not come to fruition as
prosecutions under the Act but rather ultimately Health and Safety
law has been fallen back on by prosecuting
Admittedly the penalty in the recent case, a fine of
£385,000, was steep for the size of the organisation and relative
to its finances. Sentencing guidance for courts suggests fines
should be around £500000 as a starting point.
But two years on there is no real guidance as to how these
prosecutions will work out. The difficulty even with the most
recent case is that it was a jury verdict of guilty. All reports of
that case suggest that it was factually straight forward, the
health and safety guidance relating relied upon being longstanding.
Will there be a similar article in another two years … only time
will tell. Nonetheless all organisations need to ensure their
health and safety practices and procedures are on a firm footing
and reflect day to day reality of working there.
Posted on: 22/03/2011
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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